FARM MOVEMENTS CALL THE GOVERNMENT’S BLUFF:
POINT OUT THAT SO-CALLED PRIORITY ACCORDED TO FARM SECTOR IS HYPED AND UNIMPRESSIVE
New Delhi, March 1, 2016: NDA government is trying to pull off a PR stunt and befool the nation by claiming an increased priority lent to the farm sector in this year’s Budget, alleged farm activists. The amount allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, for its three departments appears to be 45035 crores, as compared to 24910 crores of rupees in 2015-16. This is just 1.9% of India’s budget.
However, this increase in the budget for this Ministry is also mainly because of the inclusion of interest subvention fund of 15000 crores in this Ministry this year, up from 12000 crores. This is plain jugglery with numbers, they said. Further, out of a total budget of around 36000 crores for Department for Agriculture and Cooperation, crop insurance outlays of Rs. 5500 crores, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana of Rs. 5400 crores, Krishi Unnati Yojana of Rs. 6949 crores along with interest subvention adds up to 32850 crores. The crop insurance increases were expected with the government promising to subsidise premium charges and a separate analysis has already been put out on how this measure is not effective.
“It is quite ridiculous that the government is promising doubling of incomes in 6 years’ time from now, even as it has the 7th Pay Commission recommendations for already well-off in our society. Doubling of incomes will mean just about 13000 rupees on an average being promised for agricultural households per month by 2022, and this is completely unacceptable. This will only increase the inter-sectoral disparity in the country. What we have been asking for is a Farm Income Commission that will guarantee minimum living incomes for all farm households and making all state interventions accountable in delivering such incomes, and not chase just productivity and yields in agriculture. There is no road map for what the government has announced, and it is only empty talk”, said Kavitha Kuruganti, Convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).
“A very worrisome aspect in this year’s budget is that disaster relief fund outlays have been kept very low. We believe that at least 25000 crores have to be set aside for this. Farmers themselves have been asking for Rs.10,000/acre, whereas the outlays don’t either meet this demand nor cover the risk of most farmers of the country. It appears that the government does not yet realize that disasters in this age of climate change will be a routine reality that farmers have to grapple with, and given that serious lacunae in our crop insurance system have not been addressed, this is completely inadequate”, said Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
Kiran Vissa of Rythu Swarajya Vedika pointed out that this is no pro-farmer budget, which is big on hype but stingy on funds for farmers. “There are no allocations for ensuring remunerative prices to farmers in terms of higher MSPs or Market Intervention Scheme or Market Stabilization Fund. The Price Stabilization Fund is being used only to benefit consumers, and not for producers. The trigger is never when the prices fall below the MSP for such mechanisms to kick in, but only when the consumer prices go beyond a certain retail price. To this effect, it is the traders who are likely to benefit if at all, and not farmers. No measures have been announced for tenant farmers and sharecroppers, to ensure that bank loans and insurance reaches them, though they are bearing the brunt of the agrarian crisis and farm suicides,” he said.
ASHA pointed out that the enhanced outlays for organic farming to 412 crores mainly through two schemes were welcome. The Alliance expressed its concern around the expenditure patterns of the government also. For instance, the allocation for Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) is only 12000 crores, while it was Rs. 13492 crores in 2014-15. However, what is noteworthy is that only Rs. 5630 crores were spent. Similarly, the allocation for MGNREGS, while being higher than the past two years, has only been brought to the level of 2011-12 when the allocation was Rs. 39000 crores.